Amy Wallace, daughter of author Irving Wallace, met Carlos Castaneda on her father’s recommendation when she was 15. “You would love him,” he said. And eventually she did. Wallace had already established herself as a successful writer when, pursued and seduced by Castaneda’s stories, charisma and promise of marriage, she joined him in Mexico only to discover that she had become one of his many conquests and converts.
Wallace, who appears as the last of Eduardo Santiago’s authors this season, will discuss her association with Castaneda in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: My Life with Carlos Castaneda” (2003, Frog Ltd., North Atlantic Press, Berkeley, California). The lesson Wallace learned in the eight years she spent bouncing in and out of Castaneda’s favored circle was, “Don’t listen to the short shaman with the mellifluous voice.” But that is in retrospect. The journey, as detailed in her memoir, is much different — intriguing, hopeful and appalling at different turns, especially for a successful author already recognized for her talent, accomplishments and intelligence. Castaneda, as Wallace recalls, was compelling and cruel, mesmerizing and manipulative and supremely seductive. And, she remembered, there was always the possibility that there was magic, real magic, that he alone knew how to unlock.
“Mexico with Castaneda!” writes Wallace in ‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice.’ “I had never been to Mexico, and now I was going with the last and greatest of the brujos to his magical home. He would unIock its shamanic secrets. I pictured a Disneyland of the paranormal: Carlos and I creeping past cactuses to underground caves where we would sip strange, mind-altering brews and converse with ancient wizards. We would explore the ‘power spots’ he described in his books.
We would take the steps to precede the shamanic death we dreamed of, ‘burning from within’ together, in a rapturous ball of fire, emerging intact in another world, and nothing would ever separate us. What adventuress in her right mind could possibly say no?”
Wallace used the writing of “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” to extract herself from Castaneda’s influence and re-enter a life of her own construction. Before Castaneda, Wallace had already written the bestselling “The Book of Lists,” with brother David Wallenchinsky and “The Psychic Healing Book.”
“I don’t remember not writing,” said Wallace who was a bit of a prodigy. “Five, I think,” when asked the age when she began. “By eight, I was writing short stories.” After Castaneda, Wallace is exploring new forms: an online site, www.catsinplaces.com that she will illustrate and turn into a book, resuming fiction writing, concentrating on the short story form, with an emphasis on horror, but ultimately, more and more writing. In 2008 she coauthored with Del Howison and boyfriend Scott Bradley, “The Book of Lists: Horror” (2008, Harper Collins, New York).
“I’m driven by ideas and concepts,” she said of her writing. “And I’m drawn to dialogue, even a book with just dialogue. And now, I’m doing what I want to do, writing the books that are in me.”
As are all of the Santiago’s Idyllwild Authors Series, the event is free to the public and begins 2 p.m., Sunday, July 22 in back of INK Book Gathering on North Circle.